University of Wisconsin–Madison

Stopping the Tenure Clock

An assistant professor may stop the tenure clock (also referred to as requesting a tenure clock “extension” or “extending the probationary period”) for several reasons, including:

  • childbirth or adoption
  • significant elder or dependent care obligations
  • other circumstances – including medical circumstances – beyond the faculty member’s control
    that significantly impede progress toward tenure

Stopping the tenure clock literally excludes a semester or year from being counted in the probationary period, which by UW System regulation cannot last longer than seven years.

When the tenure clock stops, or a leave of absence is granted, the faculty member’s employment contract is extended by the same period.

When a faculty member requests to stop the tenure clock because of personal illness or disability, the department chair should work with the school/college Divisional Disability Representative (DDR) to request medical information that would support the request. The DDR will receive the information and will share with the chair/director/dean and executive committee only what is essential for them to know to make a final determination on the tenure clock extension. Any confidential information should not be discussed or commented on outside of closed session. No information or question regarding the disability, medical condition, or medical information, however slight, should be mentioned/posed to any other party or to the person requesting the leave except through the DDR.

When preparing an assistant professor’s dossier for tenure and promotion, any extensions of the probationary period should be noted in the chair or dean’s letter; however, to maintain confidentiality, the reason(s) for the extension(s) should not be cited, regardless of the circumstances.

Stopping the Tenure Clock for Childbirth or Adoption

Method of application: The faculty member writes directly to the provost (sending a simple letter or e-mail message to provost@provost.wisc.edu requesting to stop the tenure clock and including the date of birth/adoption). It is advisable to inform the department chair and oversight committee, and to copy them when writing to the provost. Requests related to childbirth or adoption are presumed approved.

Stopping the tenure clock for birth or adoption:

  • must be requested within 12 months of the birth/adoption
  • automatic approval of a 12-month extension for a birth / adoption while an assistant professor
  • automatic approval of a 12-month extension for a birth / adoption occurring in the 6-month period before employment begins
  • automatic approval of a 6-month extension for a birth / adoption occurring 7 to 12 months before employment begins
  • available for each birth/adoption
  • available without regard to the gender or sexual orientation of the faculty parent(s)
  • for dual career couples, available to each faculty parent
  • standard of review based on the “tenure clock” not “calendar years.” Annual evaluations “should be conducted in the context of the individual’s progress toward a tenurable record given the time remaining on the adjusted clock” (FP&P 7.05.D.)

Deans, department chairs, and faculty members should inform assistant professors of the right to stop the tenure clock for childbirth or adoption and should never discourage assistant professors from requesting an extension.

Stopping the tenure clock for other reasons

Method of application: The faculty member writes to the department chair, who conveys the request to the departmental executive committee for consideration. Approved requests are reviewed and approved, in turn, by the dean, University Committee, and provost.

Requests to stop the tenure clock for personal medical circumstances, significant elder care or dependent care obligations, or other circumstances beyond the faculty member’s control:

  • may occur more than once
  • total, aggregate length of time for all requests granted ordinarily is no more than one year
  • must be made before the beginning of the 6th year unless an unforeseen circumstance occurs in that year
  • standard of review based on the “tenure clock” not “calendar years.” Annual evaluations “should be conducted in the context of the individual’s progress toward a tenurable record given the time remaining on the adjusted clock” (FP&P 7.05.D.)

Documents to Consult